Nothing compares to the taste of pizza cooked in a wood-fired oven, so the rising popularity of outdoor pizza ovens makes perfect sense. Here we talk to a Neopolitan-pizza aficionado and offer a few outdoor outdoor pizza oven picks of our own. Prepare to salivate.
“My favorite tool is my wood oven,” says Chef Nick Strawhecker, owner of Dante and Dante Pizzeria Napoletana in Omaha, Neb. “Always has been, always will be.”
Nick should know. Not only do his restaurants sport wood-fired ovens by world-famous Italian manufacturer Mugnaini (one of the ovens, Nick will proudly tell you, is Ferrari Testarossa red), but Nick himself has traveled all over Italy and America perfecting his wood-oven skills.
“I love the way a wood oven creates that beautiful leopard spotting on a Margherita pizza. The smoke gives it a perfect balanced bitterness. Then, you add in the acidity of the sauce and the sweet creaminess of the mozzarella. There’s just nothing like it in the world.”
Nick brings his Inferno — a mobile wood-fired pizza oven — to parties and events all over Omaha, but he’s also willing to share a few tips when his customers ask him about cooking with their own backyard ovens. “There are specific steps you need to take to get the product you want,” he says. “Wood ovens are kind of next-level for the home cook who loves to be outside smoking food.”
Despite having his own fleet of professional-grade wood ovens in his restaurants, Nick says he would love it if his wife surprised him with a backyard outdoor pizza oven. He already has his menu picked out.
“I would do the pizza first, as a snack during the cocktail hour. And then a beautiful wood-roasted porchetta. Oh! And wood-roasted asparagus.”
The wine would be lambrusco. “It’s fizzy and light and it pairs so well with pizza. It’s the perfect party wine.”
Nick says that one of the greatest joys of cooking with wood is that he never stops learning and thinking of new ways to use it. “You can really do everything from your Thanksgiving turkey and Christmas Prime Rib to Monday night Brussel sprouts,” he says. “Everything you cook in a wood oven is a revelation, every time.”
Hot Picks for Pizza Ovens
Pizza Party Essentials
As with all cool gadgets, part of the fun is in the accessorizing …
Whether you experiment with homemade pizza indoors, or go all out creating your dream outdoor kitchen complete with an outdoor pizza oven, get started already and have fun on your Neopolitan journey!
And whenever you’re in the Omaha area, stop in to Dante Pizzeria. You’ll see why we’re obsessed …
Jenna Gabrial Gallagher is the founder of The Beaspora, which celebrates people who put the Midwest on the map with world-class talent, experience, and ideas. She also writes about style, entertaining, travel, a little pop culture, and adventures with her three funny little girls.